Category Archives: citizenship taxation

Take 1: Digging The Foundation To Build The House Of US Residency-based Taxation

Prologue

This is the fifth of a series of posts focussing on the need to end US citizenship-based taxation (practised only by the USA) and move to a form of pure residence-based taxation (practised by the rest of the world). The first post was titled “Toward A Definition Of Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“. The second post was titled “Toward A Movement For Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“. The third post was “Toward An Explanation For Why Some Americans Abroad Are Complacent About Citizenship Taxation“. The fourth post explains why some Americans Abroad actually OPPOSE changes to citizenship-based taxation. This fifth post in the series is to begin a discussion of what would be the basic changes (to the existing Internal Revenue Code) that would move the United States toward the world standard of pure residency-based taxation.

It’s about “pure residency-based taxation” and not citizenship-based taxation with a “carve out”

I have previously advocated that the United States should move to to a system of pure residence-based taxation. A system of pure residency-based taxation, means that:

Citizenship is NOT a sufficient condition for tax residency. If citizenship is not a sufficient condition for tax residency, income sourced outside the United States, which is received by people who are not residents of the United States, should not be taxable by the United States.

Note that pure residency-based taxation is NOT citizenship-based taxation with a “carve out” for US citizens living abroad. To put it another way: US citizens, simply because they are US citizens, would NOT be defined as US tax residents and subject to US worldwide taxation. This is different from US citizens being defined as US tax residents, but allowing (like the FEIE) for their foreign income to be excluded from US taxation. Note also that this is a legislative proposal. It is therefore different from our earlier proposal for “A Regulatory Fix To Citizenship Taxation“.

It is my opinion and the opinion of the members of SEAT, that only a system of pure residency-based taxation will solve the many problems of Americans abroad!

How is residency to be determined?

Residency is commonly determined in various ways. For example, Canada determines residency based on an objective deeming provision (number of days spent in Canada and through a “facts and circumstances” test described as ordinary residence). Generally, citizenship (if it is a factor at all) is not a significant issue in determining ordinary residence. The Canadian experience is proof that it is possible to have very sticky tax residency without citizenship being an issue.

Purpose of this post:

The purpose of this post is to propose some simple amendments to the Internal Revenue Code which would provide a foundation for the United States to transition from citizenship-based taxation to pure residence-based taxation. The goal is modest. The post is not intended to (I will write a separate post) deal with those who are CURRENTLY US citizens living outside the United States. It is NOT to address all the issues. That said, most of the Internal Revenue Code focuses on the taxation of those who are US tax residents. Little in the Code focuses on the actual definition of US tax residency.

The purpose of this post is begin with the fundamentals and ask:

How could the existing Internal Revenue Code be modified to provide a framework for residency-based taxation? Of course, readers will be left with many questions. But, the proposed foundation would allow for:

1. US citizens to move from the United States and sever tax residency with the United States.

2. US citizens to move from the United States and continue to be treated as tax residents of the United States.

Under either scenario, US citizens would remain US citizens. They would NOT be required to relinquish US citizenship in order to sever tax residency.

Obviously there will be many complications. But, every journey begins with a modest beginning. This is intended to be only a modest beginning. It is to begin digging the foundation to build the house of “residency-based taxation”.

The post is composed of the following parts:

Part A – Residents Are Subject To Worldwide Taxation

Part B – Nonresidents Are Not Subject To Worldwide Taxation

Part C – Definition Of Resident and Nonresident- 7701(b)

Part D – Definitions That Require Change “US Person”, “Relinquishment Of Residency”, etc.

Part E – Relinquishment Of Residence

Part F – Living abroad without relinquishing US residence

Generally, I believe that amendments to a small number of sections of the Internal Revenue Code provide the foundation from which to grow. Note that this proposal solves the problems of the “Retirees Abroad” (they don’t give notice under the new 877(a)(g)) and the problems of accidentals (they were never tax residents in the first place). There would be regulations (like the Canada Revenue Agency folio) for what constitutes residence. In Canada tax residency is defined largely by “ordinary residence” – a concept that is very sticky).

I am identifying the building blocks that could define tax residency under a US system of residency-based taxation, with few modifications to the Internal Revenue Code. (These building blocks are generally compatible with the existing Internal Revenue Code.) Once the foundation has been built we would then build our way out. This initial foundation solves the PFIC problem, the CFC problems and most problems related to foreign source income. The FinCEN 114 (FBAR) rules currently reference Internal Revenue Code 7701(b). Therefore, the proposals in this post would solve the FBAR problem.

I will discuss other issues impacting Americans abroad in subsequent posts.

I have included only the sections of the Internal Revenue Code that I consider the foundation of US tax residency. When a word is IN CAPS that means that there has been a change to facilitate a change to pure residence-based taxation.

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Toward An Explanation For Why Some Americans Abroad Oppose Changes To Citizenship Taxation

Prologue

This is the fourth of a series of posts focussing on the need to end US citizenship-based taxation (practised only by the USA) and move to a form of pure residence-based taxation (practised by the rest of the world). The first post was titled “Toward A Definition Of Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“. The second post was titled “Toward A Movement For Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“. The third post was “Toward An Explanation For Why Some Americans Abroad Are Complacent About Citizenship Taxation“. This fourth post explains why some Americans Abroad actually OPPOSE changes to citizenship-based taxation.

My last post discussed those who were complacent about citizenship-based taxation. In other words people who are actually indifferent. Their indifference contributes to the difficulty in cultivating a strong movement in support of pure residence-based taxation.

The purpose of this post is to discuss those who actually support the current system of citizenship-based taxation because they fear any change will harm them. They are NOT indifferent. They support the current system fo citizenship-based taxation.
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A simple regulatory fix for the problem of US citizenship taxation

Background

In 2016 I first made the suggestion that citizenship-based taxation could be changed through Treasury regulation. In October of 2020 John Richardson, Dr. Karen Alpert and Dr. Laura Snyder completed a paper titled “A Simple Regulatory Fix For Citizenship Taxation”. The idea advanced is that:

Although Congress and the Internal Revenue Code created the problem of “citizenship-based taxation”, Treasury has the authority and moral duty to fix the problems of citizenship-based taxation.

Discussion

In 1924 the Supreme Court of the United States considered U.S. citizenship-based taxation in the case of Cook v. Tait. Of course in 1924, the laws of both citizenship and taxation were very different. I have previously explored the evolution of citizenship, taxation and citizenship-based taxation.

The article has received fairly wide distribution (including in the academic community).

Abstract

This article explains the simple regulatory actions that United States Department of the Treasury can take that would, in the absence of legislative change, improve the lives of Americans living overseas and permit the IRS to better focus its limited resources to more effectively administer the U.S. tax system.

The article can be read at SSRN here.

The 2020 article can be at Tax Notes here.

I welcome your comments.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Association of Accidental Americans v. US Department Of State – Is The $2350 USD renunciation fee constitutional?

Introduction

As described in the first paragraph of the Claim:

1. Voluntary expatriation, the ability to renounce one’s nationality, is a fundamental right, upon which, arguably, all other civil rights ultimately depend. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, expatriation is a “natural right which all men have.” A Bill Declaring Who Shall Be Deemed Citizens of This Commonwealth, June 18, 1779.

See https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-02-02-0132-0004-0055.

So begins the claim of the lawsuit launched by the Association of Accidental Americans against the US Department Of State.

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Citizenship Matters With @RonanMaCrea Part 2: The Nature Of Citizenship In A Global World

Introduction

This is a continuation of my discussion with Ronan McCrea on “citizenship matters”. My first discussion with Ronan McCrea focused on issues surrounding “citizenship by descent”. This second podcast focuses on the nature of citizenship.

The questions included:

What does citizenship mean?

What are the rights of citizenship?

What are the obligations of citizenship?

What are the different ways of acquiring citizenship?

What obligations to citizens living abroad have to their fellow citizens living at home?

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Americans Abroad And Voting Part 1: How To Vote In The November 3, 2020 US Election

Introduction – Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport

The 21st century has been notable for an evolving assault on representative democracy.

Examples include:

1. The rise of the head state who is to serve for life.

2. An unhealthy mass of power in the hands of political parties in general and small parts of the party in particular. Does the individual/local representative (Congressman or MP) even matter?

3. A sentiment that individual votes no longer matter or that they are no candidates worth voting for.

Variants of these themes are being played out all over the world.

In general, politicians operate on the principle that:

“The business of the public is none of the public’s business.”

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About #FATCA and @Citizenshiptax: Here is the @DemsAbroad Interview with @AmyKlobuchar on January 22, 2020

This is an interesting interview with an interesting candidate. But, it is very clear that Senator Klocbuchar (1) believes in FATCA and (2) has no interest in abolishing citizenship-based taxation. You can pick this up at the 27 minute mark.

It’s interesting that the two candidates endorsed by the New York Times (Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar) are hostile (more so than most other Democrats) to the interests of Americans abroad.

Here is an interesting Facebook discussion about this interview, which includes the following comment:

DA Q and Sen K A on RBT: DA: Most Americans living abroad think that the time has come for residency based taxation, the principle guiding all other country’s tax systems and a fix for numerous unjust burdens on Americans living and working abroad. Now there are bipartisan, revenue neutral proposals to implement our Beatie that include robust provisions to protect the laws from abuse by tax evaders. All we need is a moment of leadership to get this done. Will you be that leader?

Sen K: Well, I have not taken a position to change that at this time. I’m always open to looking at things. And if I could just step back on our taxes in general. There just has not been the opportunity to step back and look at our tax code to see what works for regular people. Because when you think about it, when President Obama was in, we did some things, but we were in a deep recession and it was hard to make the changes that need to be made. Then President [00:03:30.0] Trump comes at it and they pass his tax bill, which really. Oh, wait. It was weighted toward people at the top and has added over a trillion dollars in debt. And when you look at his time period, while he gloats about what things, what’s happening in our country, we’ve had a 30 percent over the last decade, even before him slow down in startups. We call it the startup slump because of consolidations and other things. And we just don’t have a good tax enforcement, as I already mentioned. And then there’s just a bunch of things I think that we need to change. When it comes to our tax code, including closing some loopholes and doing something about the Buffett Rule and bringing in reversing some of the corporate tax cuts he made, I was in the group that wanted to bring the corporate tax rate down, but not to the level near the level that he brought it to. Every pointing went down was one hundred billion. And I would actually take a big chunk of that money and put it into infrastructure. Another chunk to start working on the deficit, which is brought to record levels. And I just think there’s much more we have to do to keep our economy strong for the long term.

The interview speaks for itself. It’s as though the Democrats think that the only purpose of life is to avoid taxes.

It’s pretty clear that a vote for the Democrats is a vote against Americans Abroad. (I am not, by this statement, taking any position on the Republicans.

Naomi Osaka does NOT automatically relinquish US citizenship by choosing Japanese citizenship

Citizenship is becoming more and more interesting. In my last post I wrote about Canada’s Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s U.S. citizenship. Theoretically, on October 21, 2019, Canada could have it’s first U.S. citizen Prime Minister. (Think of the extra pressure that the United States could bring to bear on Canada.)

The newsworthiness of U.S. citizenship continues. There has been much discussion of citizenship as a prerequisite to compete for countries in the Olympic games. This week, it is being reported that tennis star Naomi Osaka , a dual Japan/U.S. citizen is complying with a Japanese law that requires her to choose either U.S. or Japanese citizenship. A number of media outlets are reporting that Ms. Osaka is relinquishing U.S. citizenship. Is this really true? Interestingly the Toronto Globe and Mail initially reported that:

The Globe later (presumably realizing their error) changed the title of the article to:

“Naomi Osaka set to represent Japan at Tokyo Olympics”

Note that there is no U.S. law that requires her to choose one citizenship over the other. Ms. Osaka is apparently linking her “choosing Japanese citizenship” to a desire to represent Japan in the upcoming Olympics. A number of media sources are reporting that by choosing Japanese Nationality (under Japanese law) that Ms. Osaka is relinquishing/renouncing U.S. citizenship under U.S. law. This is probably incorrect. The act of “choosing Japanese nationality” under Japanese law does NOT automatically mean that Ms. Osaka has relinquished U.S. citizenship under U.S. law. As a matter of U.S. law:

Unless Ms. Osaka’s “choosing Japanese Nationality” meets the the test of voluntarily and intentionally relinquishing U.S. citizenship under Section 349(a) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, then “choosing Japanese Nationality” will NOT result in the relinquishment of Ms. Osaka’s U.S. citizenship. The act of “choosing Japanese citizenship” under Japanese law does NOT automatically result in the loss of her U.S. citizenship.

Every country is free to decide who it’s citizens are or are not.

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Why tax compliant #Americansabroad are under great pressure to renounce US citizenship #citizide

Introduction …
Many individuals (Solomon Yue, Keith Redmond, and MANY others) have been working very hard on tax reform for Americans abroad. Many groups (ACA, AARO, DA, etc.) have also been working. The basic goal is to support Congressman Holding’s bill which would provide some tax relief. This has been a long and difficult process (which will eventually succeed), it is very hard for individual legislators to understand the issues. This motivated me to tweet the following:


A response to this tweet included: “So the only resolution is to renounce citizenship. Correct?”
My thoughts to this response …

Breaking Down The Revenue Rule: Proposed US Japan Tax Treaty enhances ability of US to enforce taxation on #Americansabroad in Japan

Prologue – Tax Enforcement And The Revenue Rule

The common law revenue rule was designed so that one country will not enforce tax debts owed to another country. There is general agreement that the “revenue rule” is gradually disappearing. Specifically, the United States has negotiated tax treaties with at least five countries (Canada, Denmark, France, Sweden and the Netherlands) which abrogate the revenue rule. To learn more about the Revenue Rule, see the “Appendix” below.

I have previously suggested how the “assistance in collection provisions” facilitate U.S. citizenship-based taxation. My 2016 comment on “assistance in collection provisions” suggested that U.S. citizenship-based taxation gives the United States strong incentives to end the revenue rule. Specifically …

My point is this:

The “assistance in collection” mechanism in these five treaties can and will be used to allow the United States to enforce direct taxation on those who are “tax residents” of other nations AND on the economies of those other nations.

Given the U.S. practice of “citizenship-based taxation” I can’t understand why any country would enter into an “assistance in collection” treaty with the United States. Interestingly the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty does create an exemption for those who were Canadian citizens at the time tax debt arose. The Denmark U.S. Tax Treaty has a similar provision exempting citizens of Denmark.
Conclusion: It is quite clear that tax treaties which include “assistance in collection provisions” (abrogating the Revenue Rule) are overwhelmingly to the benefit of the United States. Only the United States (and the nation of Eritrea) impose taxation based on citizenship (and therefore impose taxation on the residents of other nations). These five treaties allow the United States to extend its tax base into the economies of other nations.

Present Day – June 25, 2019

The following tax treaty protocols were approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
The Protocol Amending the Convention between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Spain for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and its Protocol, signed at Madrid on February 22, 1990 (Treaty Doc. 113-4).

The Protocol Amending the Convention between the United States of America and the Swiss Confederation for the Avoidance of Double Taxation with Respect to Taxes on Income, signed at Washington on October 2, 1996, signed on September 23, 2009, at Washington, as corrected by an exchange of notes effected November 16, 2010 and a related agreement effected by an exchange of notes on September 23, 2009 (Treaty Doc. 112-1).
The Protocol Amending the Convention between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and a related agreement entered into by an exchange of notes (together the “proposed Protocol”), both signed on January 24, 2013, at Washington, together with correcting notes exchanged March 9 and March 29, 2013 (Treaty Doc. 114-1).

The Protocol Amending the Convention between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and Capital, signed on May 20, 2009, at Luxembourg (the “proposed Protocol”) and a related agreement effected by the exchange of notes also signed on May 20, 2009 (Treaty Doc. 111-8).

Each of these four treaty protocols has updated information exchange and/or collection provisions. The proposal in the treaty with Japan is most interesting and most worrying.

The Japan protocol includes a provision for assistance in collection that is somewhat more expansive than is contained in similar treaties (Canada, Sweden, Denmark, France and Netherlands). Japan does NOT normally allow dual citizenship. Therefore the collection provision in ARTICLE 27 the collection provision could possibly be used as a mechanism to force Japan to enforce U.S. taxation on U.S. citizens who are resident in Japan!!

Time will tell.

The new ARTICLES 26 and 27 of the U.S. Japan Tax Treaty (if approved by the Senate) will be:
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